SoulCycle Has Opened In London – I Went To The First Class

The indoor cycling class has a cult following in the US and now it's arrived in the UK.

Finally – SoulCycle, the indoor cycling class with a cult following, has crossed the pond and parked up in London.

SoulCycle is to indoor cycling what Barry’s Bootcamp is to HIIT workouts. It’s been going for over a decade, boasts 90 studios across North America (yes, 90!) and has tens of thousands of regulars, including celebrity fans Beyoncé and Jay Z, the Beckhams, Lady Gaga and Khloe Kardashian.

Because I absolutely love a spinning class and get on my bike to go to work most days, I first tried SoulCycle when I was on holiday in LA (sadly not a Kardashian in sight). Friends had told me that I’d love it – and I did, suddenly understanding why you might make a special pilgrimage to the studios when visiting the US.

So what makes it such a cult hit? The clue is in the name. It’s about much more than just busting a gut on a bike for 45 minutes. There’s also a focus on checking in with yourself and, dare I say it, enjoying the journey.

So I was buzzing to try the first London class.

Unlike rival UK studios with RPM counters and instructors who are incredibly prescriptive about how much to turn your resistance up or down, at SoulCycle they encourage you to challenge yourself on your own terms. Sure, they give suggestions on how to adjust the resistance dial, but it’s encouraged rather than demanded.

The Soho studio – with 63 bikes obediently lined up in three rows facing instructors’ platform and a wall of mirrors – is the first of a handful planned to come to the capital. Inside, the room is dark save for candlelight, and some bright lights shining on the instructors’ platform, and there’s a strict no phones policy.

In fact, the instructors even discourage checking your fitness tracker at the end of the class, to reduce the temptation to compare yourself to other participants. (If you’ve ever been to a spin class, you’ll know how demoralising it can be when the person in front is acing it and you’re covered in sweat trying to stick to the beat.)

To be honest, as a Brit I did find myself having to dig quite deep when it came to high fiving my neighbour and the crystal that “blesses” every studio – but the banging playlist and energy emanating from the room helped balance that out. The class started with a remix of You’ve Got The Love, followed by Hello and Bootylicious – a bad playlist can make a spin class drag, but these 45 minutes went by in a flash.

Veteran SoulCycle instructors Mantas Zvinas and Kendra Kemerly were full of the positive vibes you’d expect for US fitness fanatics. Mantas started oddly half-rapping instructions at one point, but I found myself strangely into it, while Kendra’s breathy motivational speech about all 65 of us (63 participants + instructors) being a team stopped me from giving up.

I’ve been quite promiscuous so far as London spin studios go. Which means I can see where others have followed the clear track laid by SoulCycle but after one class with the real deal, you can clearly spot the difference.

“You can’t buy this feeling, you can only earn it,” Mantas said towards the end of the class, preparing us for one last push. And yes, the euphoria post-class knowing you’ve worked your ass off was very, very real – but then so was the price tag.

The studio opens mid-June with a full timetable, and classes are priced at £24 per session, with discounts on multiple class purchases. The rest of the place feels like a typical London boutique fitness studio: filtered water machine that has a counter for how many plastic bottles saved using refillable bottles; food from Good Life Eatery; toiletries from the likes of Le Labo and Drunk Elephant; Dyson hairdryers.

Kendra acknowledges the differences between Brits and her typical students, saying that she expects classes to be silent for a few weeks, until we – the London contingent of SoulCyclers – loosen up and embrace the SoulCycle way. Will we ever get used to the high fives? Only time will tell.

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